Thailand’s state of emergency declaration for Bangkok and some neighbouring provinces will have no impact on tourists visiting the country, Tourism Authority of Thailand’s governor, Thawatchai Arunyik, told a media briefing at the ATF, Wednesday.

“Tourists are safe, there has never been a time when they were targeted… we don’t attack tourists,” he said. “The state of emergency allows the government to put in place measures to control the situation.”

However, he said visitors should avoid protests sites in Bangkok and recommended they travel to other destinations in the country where there are no protests.

 

Thawatchai Arunyik

All of Thailand’s destinations are enjoying normal tourism business. Pattaya, Phuket and destinations in North Thailand where there is exceptionally cool weather are still packed with tourists.

“Even Bangkok has not been closed down,” he noted reassuring tourists that with the exceptions of districts in the inner city people were going about their business normally and commuting across the city to their offices.”

The Thai government announced a state of emergency in the inner city and some surrounding districts in neighbouring provinces, Tuesday evening,  for 60 days.

After facing opposition to declare a state of emergency earlier in January, this time the government gained the tacit support of the military.

The TAT governor said security updates were posted on the authority’s website every 24 hours and staff had joined the ministry of tourism and sports to man tourist help centres to offer assistance.

Most of the requests are for information on how to avoid the protest marches and get to the airport in time for flights.

International media asked for specifics on state of emergency implications for visitors.

“It is nothing to do with curfews,” the TAT governor explained. “It gives the government more power to manage security and media. It will not impact on visitors at all.”

However, shortly after the government announced a state of emergency, Hong Kong raised its colour-coded alert in Bangkok to black, the highest level, just days before the Chinese New Year travel peak was due to start. It  will cause more cancellations from one of Thailand’s top markets.

Singapore Airlines confirmed  it was reducing  flights for the second time since New Year, claiming there had been a substantial drop in travel demand for trips to Bangkok.

For the first 15 days of January, the immigration bureau reported a drop of 22.8% in travellers passing through checkpoints at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

However, the TAT governor talked confidently about reaching a target of 28 million visitors this year, based on protests ending soon.

“I cannot forecast when the protests will be over, but we believe that once elections are over, 2 February, the situation should improve.”

Based on previous experience, he said recovery  would be fast once protests ended.

“That has always been the trend and we have in place plans that can be introduced quickly to start the recovery process, almost immediately,” he said.

Recovery plans include a raft of promotional activities worldwide, advertising campaigns, major familiarisation trips for media and travel agents. Many of them will focus on presenting destinations in the North and South.

“More emphasis will be given to culture focusing on the northeast, family and adventure travel. We will promote more destinations that reflect what the entire country has to offer visitors.”

Tourist arrivals from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan have plummeted this month. Asia markets are sensitive to political unrest, but the Russian market has remained robust and declines in travel from Europe have been around 2% to 5%, contrasting with 22% to 25% drops in Asian markets.

Thailand’s branding is being built this year around the tagline “Amazing Thailand; it begins with the people,” a slogan that raised eyebrows during the media briefing.

When asked if was appropriate considering volatile protests on the streets of Bangkok, the TAT governor quipped: “We always keep smiling and recovery begins with the people.”